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Posts Tagged Saudia

Saudi Arabian Airlines soars to new heights

Saudi Arabian Airlines soars to new heights


Tariq A. Al-Maeena

I had been a long-term critic of the state of affairs at the national carrier we have all come to know as Saudia.  My extensive association with them provided me with an insight very few other writers had access to.  And watching how the airline floundered and stumbled from a position of strength was indeed painful, not just to me and not just to the many dedicated employees of the organization, but to the hundreds of thousands of passengers dissatisfied with their experience with this airline.

One of the most perplexing questions was how this airline with practically a guaranteed market failed to make any significant impact in the region.  In previous decades, and with very little competition around, Saudia was indeed the big kid on the block.  There was a very lucrative market to tap into.  The decades of the late 70s, 80s and 90s witnessed a massive flow of passenger migration called the “teacher movement”, whereby hundreds of thousands of school and university teachers from Egypt, Sudan, Syria, Jordan and elsewhere were transported back to their homeland during annual vacations.

There was also the annual flow of Saudi and expatriate tourists leaving the country during the hot summer months for cooler places.  With the generous surplus provided by increasing oil prices, many Saudis and their families began venturing outside their borders using Saudia as a vehicle to get them to their destinations.

The rising standard of living also led to the recruitment by Saudi households of hundreds of thousands of domestic workers from Third World countries, all of whom were initially required to fly on Saudia.

Then there were the Umrah passengers who would fly from different corners of the world to perform their religious rites.  Added to this were the millions who flocked to this country to perform the annual Haj pilgrimage.  Saudia, the primary beneficiary of this vast abundance of passengers from so many different sectors and at different intervals during the year, was indeed very fortunate and the envy of many regional carriers.  At that time, there was no Emirates Airlines or Qatar Airways or Etihad.  It was all Saudia.

The government too was very generous to the national airline, allocating a sizable portion of its annual budget to bolster the operating costs of this growing company.  But in spite of all that the company was gifted with, organizational rot began to set in.  By the mid 90s, complaints were rising against the carrier from frustrated passengers who targeted everything from poor customer services to the shabby appearance of the aircraft and technical delays.  But all such complaints fell on deaf ears.  Operating costs kept rising, new CEOs were appointed but there was no significant change.

The privatization scheme announced in the 90s by the late Prince Sultan, who was the country’s minister of defense at the time, failed to move forward for many years as many of the airline’s executives continued to drag their feet against such a move. They feared that it would end their tenure as recipients of the cash cow that came to be known as Saudia.  The airline was literally treated as a country club by some executives, where promotions to higher grades were determined not on the basis of qualifications but by who knew and buttered whom.



Saudi Airlines




The apparent lack of accountability led to unprecedented levels of nepotism.  This blatant abuse of ethics led to diminishing corporate ethics and poor worker morale which translated to poor service and a poor product.  It also signaled the end of service of many qualified individuals who left the airline disillusioned with the “backroom” politics. While other upstart regional airlines garnered awards on the global stage, Saudia was confined to looking at the festivities from behind the curtains.

But recently, things have begun to change.  A new CEO took over.  Saleh N. Al-Jasser was appointed as the director general of Saudi Arabian Airlines in 2014.  He brought with him a “can do” spirit of change.  He has introduced corporate discipline.  Unlike his predecessors, he began by getting rid of senior deadwood executives who had been hanging on tenaciously to their positions for decades and had contributed nothing of significance to the airline’s growth.  On the contrary, they were the reason the airline fell backwards. That process of cleaning up still continues as some more executives were removed from their posts recently.

Al-Jasser stated at the time of his appointment: “We will encourage a spirit of initiative and innovation to improve the level of performance and customer services.   We will give top priority to customers in order to maximize satisfaction.”  He also demanded that expenditures had to be rationalized and operational efficiency boosted.  The privatization drive has been given new impetus.  His pursuit of organizational agility and accountability has begun to translate itself as is evident by increased customer satisfaction and load factors.  Morale is on the upswing, service has improved, passenger complaints have dropped, and the airline is finally getting on the right track.  Saudia is becoming the first choice for many travelers.

Granted there is more work to be done and the competition is stiff, but with an individual like Saleh Al-Jasser piloting the organization, I have no doubt that Saudi Arabian Airlines will indeed be taken to new horizons.

— The author can be reached at talmaeena@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @talmaeena

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Saudi Arabia beheads Pakistani for drug trafficking

 | 16th January, 2013

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia beheaded a Pakistani man in the eastern Khubar province on Wednesday after he was convicted of drug trafficking, the interior ministry announced.

Arshad Mohammed was arrested for smuggling heroin and hashish into the kingdom, the ministry was quoted as saying by the official SPA news agency.

His execution brings to four the number of people executed in Saudi Arabia so far this year.

Last year, the kingdom beheaded 76 people, according to an AFP tally based on official figures. The US-based Human Rights Watch put the number at 69.

Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under Saudi Arabia’s Shariah, or Islamic law. 

Paris court confirms drug jail sentence for Saudi prince

 A Paris appeals court on Tuesday confirmed a Saudi prince’s conviction for involvement in a cocaine smuggling gang and added a seven million euro ($9.7-million) fine to his 10-year jail sentence.Prince Nayef Al-Shaalan was tried in absentia in the original trial last year and also failed to show up at the appeal court, which revalidated a warrant for his arrest.

The prince, who is not in line for the Saudi throne, was one of 10 people handed jail terms of four to 10 years in connection with an operation which landed two tonnes of cocaine at an airfield outside Paris in 1999.

Prince Nayef was convicted of illegally importing drugs, of complicity in the transport, detention and provision of drugs and of criminal conspiracy.

He was accused of providing a jet to transport the drugs from Colombia and using his diplomatic immunity as cover. 

A grandson of Saudi Arabia’s founding monarch Abdulaziz, the prince has denied any involvement in the drug-trafficking ring.

His lawyers were not immediately available for comment after Thursday’s appeal court ruling.

The investigation leading to the prince’s conviction began in June 1999, when 800kg of cocaine with a street value of $30 million was seized by police in a raid near Paris.

He was indicted on the basis of testimony from three Colombian former drug barons – Oscar Eduardo Campuzano Zapata, Juan Gabriel Usuga Norena and Carlos Alfonso Ramon Zapata – as part of a plea-bargain in a separate drugs trial in the United States.

The Colombians, also convicted in absentia last year, were respectively handed four-, nine- and 10-year jail sentences.

But the appeals court increased those sentences so now all three face 10 years in jail.

The Colombians and Prince Nayef were ordered by the court last year to jointly pay a total fine of 80 million euros to the French customs service.

On Tuesday the court ordered the Colombians to pay a supplementary fine of two million euros each.

A Spanish art dealer and financier was handed a five-year sentence last year for taking part in a conspiracy with the aim of importing drugs.

Five other defendants were also given 10 years on the same charges as the prince in the 2007 hearing.

MOVIE: Saudi Prince Nayef Al-Shaalan, International Cocaine Trafficker

Documentary about Saudi Prince Nayef Al-Shaalan, who was sentenced in absentia to 10 years in jail on charges of involvement in a cocaine smuggling gang [46mins] 






The 53-year-old prince was one of 10 people handed jail terms of four to 10 years in connection with an operation which landed two tonnes of cocaine at an airfield outside Paris in 1999. The judge ruled to uphold international arrest warrants against Prince Nayef and the nine other defendants, who include three former Colombian drugs barons. 

Prince Nayef was convicted of illegally importing drugs, of complicity in the transport, detention and provision of drugs and of criminal conspiracy. He is accused of using his diplomatic immunity to smuggle drugs to France on board a private jet. A grandson of Saudi Arabia’s founding monarch Abdulaziz and son-in-law to the Saudi deputy defence minister, the prince denies any involvement in drug trafficking. A Saudi representative at the hearing said he intended to appeal. 

The investigation leading to his prince’s conviction began in June 1999, when police acting on a tip-off seized 800 kilos of cocaine with a street value of $30 million a raid near Paris. Prince Nayef – who is alleged to have made contacts with Colombia’s Medellin cartel while studying at the University of Miami in the early 1980s – is accused of providing a jet to transport the drugs from Colombia to Paris. 



Drug Smuggling Saudi Prince Gets 10 Years

 By Vic Walter
May 9, 2007 7:13pm

A French court sentenced a Saudi prince to 10 years in prison for abusing his role in a large-scale cocaine smuggling operation. But the prince isn’t likely to see the inside of a cell anytime soon. Saudi Prince Nayef bin Sultan bin Fawwaz al-Shaalan, believed to be living in Saudi Arabia, did not appear at today’s hearing, or the trial which preceded it, and was sentenced in absentia by the court. It also fined him $100 million for his role in the plot to smuggle two tons of cocaine from Colombia to an airport outside Paris in 1999. Nine other defendants were also convicted in absentia for their part in the operation. The prince, who is the grandson of Saudi Arabia’s founding monarch Abdulaziz and the son-in-law to the Saudi deputy defense minister, was found guilty of using his diplomatic status and a 727 jet belonging to the Saudi royal family to transport the cocaine. The United States has also indicted al-Shaalan with conspiracy to possess and distribute cocaine but does not have a policy of trying cases in absentia.  In 2005, a U.S. court found two other members of the operation guilty and sentenced them each to 24 years in prison and to pay $25,000 in fines. Former Drug Enforcement Administration official Tom Raffanello, who oversaw the U.S. investigation of Prince Nayef al-Shaalan, applauded the sentence of the French court. “I think it is a great thing. I wish more countries would try criminals in absentia, when it’s obvious they have avoided prosecution.” The prince is said to be living in Saudi Arabia, which does not have an extradition treaty with the United States.  It also does not have one with France. “Because of that we have to catch a break in order to catch him,” said Raffanello. Prince Nayef al-Shaalan has denied the smuggling charges and claims he has been cleared of any wrongdoing by the Saudi government.


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